May 8, 2020 / 12:44 PM / 20 days ago

EU executive defends China envoy over censored op-ed

BRUSSELS, May 8 (Reuters) - European Union headquarters in Brussels on Friday defended the bloc’s ambassador to China after admitting he did not consult the bloc’s national envoys in Beijing on an opinion piece they authored for the official China Daily but that was censored.

The ambassador, Nicholas Chapuis, on Thursday said it was “regrettable” that part of the article on EU-China relations had been removed before publication, the latest example of how troubled ties are between the bloc and Beijing.

As EU diplomats in Brussels expressed dismay that Chapuis allowed for the censorship without even informing the 27 EU countries in advance, a spokeswoman for the bloc’s executive European Commission said on Friday, “The decision was not the right one to take.”

But she also said Chapuis was an expert on China and “a true asset” for the Brussels-based EU joint foreign policy arm.

The incident comes after China sought to block an EU report alleging that Beijing was spreading disnformation about the coronavirus outbreak, according to diplomatic correspondence seen by Reuters in April.

An EU-China summit in Beijing had been postponed from March amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

With more than a billion euros a day in bilateral trade, the EU is China’s top trading partner, while China is second only to the United States as a market for EU goods and services.

But political, trade, human rights and security tensions weigh heavily on the relationship, not least as both vie for influence in the western Balkans. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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